Cook and Miller Linked Since High School, Now Meet With Everything on the Line

By Kyle Rowland on December 5, 2013 at 9:15a
Connor Cook has long been in the shadow of Braxton Miller.

Connor Cook has been here before. Yes, he’s been on the cusp of the Rose Bowl once, during his redshirt season, but that’s not what this is about. Cook is used to being background noise. Even as a three-star recruit and one of the top quarterbacks in the state of Ohio, Cook played second fiddle to others.

While Braxton Miller wowed coaches, teammates, opponents, fans and every other spectator, Cook also put up solid numbers. Not this season. In high school. Competing for headlines with the dynamic Miller is an old hat for Cook, a Walsh Jesuit grad.

The lead up to the Big Ten Championship Game has been déjà vu all over again. All the attention centered on Miller as Cook is paid little attention.

“I knew [Ohio State] had their sights on Braxton Miller and they were only going to take one quarterback in that class, and they already offered Braxton Miller at the time,” Cook told reporters this week, reliving the recruiting process. “I really wasn’t being recruited at that point. I wasn’t that highly recruited of a player, so I felt if I’m not being recruited by other Big Ten schools, why would Ohio State recruit me?”

But Cook didn’t take it personal. Even he had visions of playing at a small school, possibly in the Mid-American Conference. Then came an offer from Michigan State and the rest, as they say, is history.

“It just so happens I’m facing Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game,” Cook said. “It’s funny how things work out.”

Indeed. And he’s not just trying to beat the Buckeyes, but also outperform Miller. Cook might not put up gaudy statistics – he has more than 2,100 yards passing with 17 touchdowns and four interceptions – but his efficiency, steadiness and handle on the game makes him an asset on a team loaded with defensive playmakers.

Coaches thought enough of Cook to tab him as second-team All-Big Ten. Keep in mind he started the season third on Michigan State’s depth chart. 

The doubters still persist, though. Not that Cook will listen to it. He takes the motto “speak softly and carry a big stick” and walks all over it. His confidence verges on cocky and brash.

“They can talk about the opposing quarterback all they want. I’ll just be over here working in practice,” Cook said.

It’s that conviction that’s behind an 11-1 record and top-10 national ranking for the Spartans. Cook’s self-assurance has contributed to his rise from irrelevance to team leader. Linebacker Max Bullough said Cook’s development in East Lansing is a model for success.

“The changes that kid has made as a person and football player have been unrivaled by anyone I’ve ever seen,” Bullough said. “He’s become a leader on this football team.”

Cook counters his teammate by saying hard work is the road to greatness. His determination doesn’t wane, whether it’s being part of a rotating quarterback system or sitting on the bench during Michigan State’s final series at Notre Dame, the Spartans’ lone loss on the season.

With Cook as the facilitator, the Michigan State offense – and co-offensive coordinator Jim Bollman – is moving from mocked to respected. 

“He has that presence about him, that ability to take a hit, to take something bad happening out there and be able to respond,” head coach Mark Dantonio said. “I think that’s huge, especially in a championship venue.”

Cook’s counterpart possesses those same skills and ability, plus some. Urban Meyer thinks so highly of Miller that he let slip a remark on Monday that puts him in the same category as Tim Tebow, one of college football’s all-time greats. The transition for Miller from high school phenom to college standout came effortlessly. Where the difficulty lies is molding him into a vocal leader, often considered a must at such a significant position.

“He’s a tough nut to crack,” Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman said, no pun intended. “He’s very guarded. He’s a very introverted person, and that’s not bad. None of that is negative, but it lends itself to a much tougher job for a guy like me to come in and say, ‘Hey, since high school I’m your fourth offensive coordinator in five years, and oh, by the way, you’ve got to trust me 100 percent.’

“It takes time. Trust is earned, it’s not just given.”

Twenty-four games into their partnership, trust flows with no resistance between Miller and Herman.

“He has become a better quarterback,” Herman said, “which allows him to become a better leader.”

Said Miller: “It’s unbelievable how far I’ve come from last year.”

Saturday in Indianapolis, it’ll just be two Ohio boys flinging the ball around, rallying teammates on the sideline all in the name of winning a championship.


Comments Show All Comments

BuckeyeFreak4844's picture

Great article, nice to see Cooks perspective as well!  Every Eleven Warriors story i read gets me that much closer to sat night.  Man is it going to be a long anxious day saturday.

Michigan Sucks!

RedStorm45's picture

I knew [Ohio State] had their sites on Braxton Miller

Their websites and sights?

buckeye_heart's picture

Connor Cook don't be the next Ohio kid we have to hate.

ChazBuckeye's picture

Kids that are spurned by OSU in recruiting often times do well against us.  It's deeply concerning to say the least.  As I previously stated below, this worries me with our inept defense at the moment (Illinois let down late and the entire TTUN game if anyone needs examples).  

Some people think we’re the hunted.I don’t feel that way at all.We’re the hunter.Everybody wants an angry football team.Everybody wants a team on edge and a hungry team.If you’re a hunter,that usually equates to being hungry.

Baroclinicity's picture

We better be taking these guys seriously...

When you're holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

BuckeyeFreak4844's picture

Agreed all eyes and pressure will be on the Buckeyes not only with the BCS but a win streak like we have and the rest of the world just waiting for us to lose so they can say told ya so. 

Michigan Sucks!

ogama843's picture

We'll see how well Cook can do when he's flat on his back. Git im D!

Holy Buckeye!

Doc's picture

Come on Bucks, just win baby!

CJDPHoS Member

The Official DDS of 11W

pcon258's picture

Reading this is just reaffirming a belief I've held all season. The B1G is vaulting back into national prominence. Michgan st will continue to be a good team. Penn state will be a good team once their sanctions are up. Purdue hired the right coach to bring them to relevancy. Northwestern will continue to be a factor. Wiscy will always be a upper middle range team. Even Minnesotas having a resurgence of sorts. And I have a feeling that Michigan is gonna turn the ship around too. Im sick of being disappointed with anything but a blowout win. I want the buckeyes to be tested week in and week out. If we beat a team by a touchdown, I want to be able to revel in victory, not worry about impressing voters. Having a strong big ten is the first step. #B1Gsolidarity
Edit: tl;dr watching the buckeyes is more fun when we play good teams. This week is fun. 

ChazBuckeye's picture

Nice article.  I think he'll pass for around 300 or more but won't see the end zone unless they break a long play or two (e.g. Abbrederis from Wiscy).  The question is, can Cook throw multiple screen passes?  I'd say yes ;-)  
My gosh I'm so worried about our defense this weekend.  This kid could really make them look stupid if the defense isn't ready.  Kind of like they weren't ready nor prepared for TTUN's stellar offense... 

Some people think we’re the hunted.I don’t feel that way at all.We’re the hunter.Everybody wants an angry football team.Everybody wants a team on edge and a hungry team.If you’re a hunter,that usually equates to being hungry.

Breakawayspeed's picture

I hope we find out if he can take a hit and "respond" when "bad" things happen out there, Coach D.  He needs to feel the pressure like Hackenberg did. 

Buckeye06's picture

I don't know why people keep saying we better keep taking them seriously.  What is left to play for if they don't?  Some oranges?
This is the game the last 12 have been for.  It is a game Buckeyes across the country have waited for for 6 years, the chance to get back to the pinnacle of the sport

Furious George 27's picture

I kind of feel that with how poorly the defense played last week, they will be on a mission to stop MSU and prove something..... And with Bollman as the Co-OC we should see a lot of the same play over and over.

Yeah, well…that’s just like, your opinion, man.

buckz4evr's picture

I don't think Bollman calls the plays

ChazBuckeye's picture

No he doesn't and MSU doesn't just run Dave right and left.  It's not going to be that easy...I'm not sure why the Orange Bowl is a great thing...It's Rose Bowl or bust at this point Buckeye fans!  Embrace It! The CHASE is on!

Some people think we’re the hunted.I don’t feel that way at all.We’re the hunter.Everybody wants an angry football team.Everybody wants a team on edge and a hungry team.If you’re a hunter,that usually equates to being hungry.

ScarletGray43157's picture

Two starting QBs from Ohio, and two head coaches from Ohio.  That's just in this game.  

In old Ohio there's a team that's known throughout the land...

TMac's picture

Braxton before Connor - alphabetically, athletically, and most importantly in the BCS rankings!
GO BUCKS, beat Sparty!

ONE Not Done!

IBleedSandG's picture

Conner Cook has long been in the shadow on Braxton Miller.

Here's to hoping he stays there.


ABrown07's picture

The issue I see that happens with OSU is that we tend to not be the more physical team defensively. I'm not saying we don't have the ability because we definitely do and when we are, we are unstoppable and we eventually catch up and then out do them but we have to be the aggressor from play one. Examples are Purdue in the first half when they were running all over us, pushing us around and Northwestern to an extent, then Illinois, then TTUN did it all game long. Michigan State is no offensive juggernaut, but neither were any of the teams I just listed. Bottom line is, we have to come out swinging on them defensively and set the tone early and play good coverage D. The same goes for the game against FSU. I have all the confidence in the world in Urban and this team, I know we can do this. GO BUCKS!!!!!

I don't like nice people. I like tough, honest people.

-Woody Hayes

Furious George 27's picture

With the OSU D, I see a lot of over pursuit in the backfield missing easy sacks or tackles and when they are in space they let the WR or RB make a move on them that gets them an additional 2-3yds. I see MSU being like Iowa in trying to control the clock and dumping off safe passes, not sure if they have the WRs to do what Wisconsin did. 

Yeah, well…that’s just like, your opinion, man.

Seattle Linga's picture

The carpet will open up the offenses on both sides however Herman's spread is clicking on all cylinders and won't be stopped. Be prepared for our defense to play better and slow down the already slow/conservative offense from MSU - 
Go Bucks

okiebuck's picture

We need to hit Cook; hit him again and again and again BUT no stupid roughing penalties boys!

"Fate has cards that it don't want to show"

Lumpy Rutherford's picture

Absolutely love the Bucks - but geeze - every week it's the SAME story regarding the defense. Something is wrong there - we have the players don't we? So . . .  ?

nm_buck's picture

He wasn't "spurned" by tOSU.  There was a much better QB available, and we only needed one recruit.  Pretty simple really.  If a lesser QB from say... arkansas... was taken over him... then you could say he he was spurned.  But that wasn't the case was it.  End of story.

"The future is bright at Ohio State."  - Urban Meyer 1/1/15